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Some schools do Act on their own

For the past six years, Roger D’souza, 13, has been studying in Holy Family High School in Andheri with financial help from the school management and the alumni association.

mumbai Updated: Apr 14, 2012 02:29 IST
HT Correspondent

For the past six years, Roger D’souza, 13, has been studying in Holy Family High School in Andheri with financial help from the school management and the alumni association.

D’souza’s father, Richard, is a rickshaw driver who earns Rs500 a day.

For the past 25 years, the Andheri school has been extending financial support to educate students from the economically weaker section.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act and said that all private and unaided school other than the minority unaided schools will have to reserve 25% seats for the weaker and disadvantaged sections.

Even before the RTE Act came into force on April 1, 2010, several city schools have been admitting and supporting students from poor families. Some schools do so even as they battle deficits. “As a policy, 80 % of our students are from the economically weaker section. Though the management and our ex-students adopt a few children to pay their fees, annually, we have a deficit of Rs6 lakh,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal, Holy Family School, a minority-run aided school.

“We have all the infrastructure to shift our affiliation from the SSC board to the ICSE board. However, poor parents would not be able to afford the fee, which is why we are still affiliated to the state board,” Swamy added.

“I am grateful to the school authorities that my child is studying in a good school despite my shortcomings. I feel happy that I am able to educate my son given the current circumstances,” said Richard, who lives in a slum in Andheri.

Father Agnel School in Vashi conducts its admissions based on a lottery system to ensure student representation from diverse backgrounds. The school faces an annual deficit of Rs9 lakh.

Bethany Convent School in Panvel has 40 tribal students from a nearby village in Class 1 to Class 6. “Most of the parents work as brick kiln workers and they keep migrating from one place to another,” said Sister Celine Pereira, social work coordinator at the school. “It is always challenging to teach such students, and teachers have to take extra effort to help the children understand things better.”

Educationists said that quality education can take place only in an inclusive classroom. “Best practices in education such as activity-based learning, peer group learning, co-operative learning and buddy mentoring can happen only in a diverse group,” said Vaishali Samant, professor, Hansraj Jivandas College of Education, who has researched the positive impacts of an integrated classroom.